Twins battle back, slam Astros in ninth to win

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- With Joe Mauer on the concussion disabled list and Justin Morneau recently traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire cobbled together a youthful lineup susceptible to growing pains and, more directly, accumulating strikeouts in droves.

On Monday at Minute Maid Park, the Twins showcased the patience of the veterans they're presently lacking before first baseman Chris Colabello capped their methodical comeback from a four-run deficit with a ninth-inning grand slam in a 10-6 win over the Houston Astros.

Brian Dozier singled and two-out walks to Doug Bernier and Chris Hermann set the stage for Colabello to record his first career grand slam and his first career multihomer game. He posted a career-high five RBIs.

Bernier and Herrmann recorded the eighth and ninth walks issued by Houston pitching.

"I've been working hard in the cage and BP (batting practice) to try to get back to my stroke," Colabello said. "Today was the first taste I had probably since Cleveland, I hit two balls hard to right field.

"Even my first at-bat, the double play, I hit the ball hard," Colabello said. "It was hit hard; it wasn't so much rolled over as it was hit hard. I felt pretty good. Obviously I had a pretty good swing my second at-bat. The goal every day is to help the team win, and I think I was able to do that."

Chia-Jen Lo (0-3) had a two-strike count with two outs against Bernier before unraveling.

The Astros (45-92) led 5-1 in the second inning before Minnesota (60-76) mounted its comeback. The Twins hit four homers, two off an Astros bullpen that has yielded a league-worst 77 home runs.

"Walks were an extreme problem," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "You go back to last night and look at (Brett) Olberholtzer's start (against the Seattle Mariners) and the way he attacked the strike zone and you fast forward to today and nine walks. That will hurt you in any game."

Twins right-hander Josh Roenicke (3-1) worked two hitless innings of relief to earn the victory.

The Astros made short work of Twins left-hander Andrew Albers as Robbie Grossman, Jose Altuve and Jason Castro reached base and scored in the first inning. Houston added two runs in the second as the Astros chased Albers.

As he did in his first at-bat, Castro drove home Grossman with an opposite-field single to left. Two batters later, Chris Carter added an RBI double that scored Altuve and sent Albers to the showers.

Altuve tacked on an RBI single in the third inning, but the well ran dry soon thereafter. Houston came to regret stranding six runners in the first three innings.

"Offensively for us, we have to continue batting runs," Astros right fielder Trevor Crowe said. "Seven innings left in a big league ballgame, you never know what is going to happen."

After the Twins posted solo runs in the second and third innings, they scored twice off Astros right-hander Paul Clemens in the fourth.

Trevor Plouffe and Colabello smacked solo home runs off Clemens before Dozier did the same against Lucas Harrell leading off the fifth inning.

Dozier cut the deficit to 6-5, and the Twins capped their slow climb back to a deadlock in the eighth when Plouffe drew a leadoff walk and pinch-runner Bernier scored on a two-out single to center by Pedro Florimon.

The Twins converted four of their nine walks into runs. Only two or their 10 total runs were not a result of a walk or a home run.

"You tell yourself to have quality at-bats," Gardenhire said. "We have a lot of young hitters. If you look at our numbers we've struck out an awful lot.

"We battled today in some pretty good situations. We've cut down our strikeouts. We still had a few but we've been putting up double-figure strikeouts for what seems like two straight weeks," Gardenhire said. "Today was a little bit better putting the ball in play and some better at-bats."

NOTES: Mauer hit off a tee back at Target Field and is scheduled to take batting practice on Tuesday. Mauer, placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list Aug. 20, could return to the active roster this weekend barring a relapse. ... Castro departed in the second inning with a sprained right knee after recording his second consecutive single against Albers. The Astros already have catchers Carlos Corporan and Max Stassi on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
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